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July 15, 2020 65 min

The magnitude of interlocking “wicked problems” we humans face today is daunting…and made all the worse by the widening schisms in our public discourse, the growing prominence of hate speech and prejudicial violence. How can we collaborate at scale if it’s not even safe to act as citizens, to participate in a sufficiently diverse society, without becoming targets? The World Wide Web has made it easier than ever for hate groups to organize…but also grants new power to those willing to oppose the hateful. New tactics such as “counter speech” have sprung up to depolarize society. But do they work? Can organized nonviolent interventions restore civility and save our public spaces? Or does the ensuing arms race only bring our fora closer to collapse?

Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and each week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.

This week’s episode features three authors of new research on hate speech and counter speech — SFI Applied Complexity Fellow Joshua Garland, Professor Mirta Galesic, and External Professor Keyan Ghazi-Zahedi — who, along with co-authors Laurent Hébert Dufresne and Jean-Gabriel Young, have discovered patterns in the Twitter data that just might help save the Web. Over the next hour, we’ll discuss how they use AI to classify hate speech and counter speech, what this reveals about the hidden structure of our conversations, and how it offers hope for social media just when we need it most…

To learn more about SFI's work on counter speech, and the new CounterBalance seminar series, please visit

If you value our research and communication efforts, please consider making donation at, or joining our Applied Complexity Network at Also, we hope you’ll help this show find new listeners by rating and reviewing us at Apple Podcasts. Thank you for listening!

This Week’s Guests:

Joshua Garland

Mirta Galesic (who also appeared on this show for Episode 9)

Keyan Ghazi-Zahedi

Papers we discuss in this episode:

Countering hate on social media: Large scale classification of hate and counter speech

• As-yet-untitled follow-up paper TBA  (we will add this link as soon as it's available)

Join our Facebook discussion group to meet like minds and talk about each episode.

Podcast Theme Music by Mitch Mignano.

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